I have been enjoying the forum here for several years. This is my first post. I am a modest player, as flute is my primary instrument. I have enjoyed the small baby grand I did have, but have sold it to move on to a more ambitious project.
I have a young friend who apprentices in two shops that deal with player pianos. He got me interested in the history and technology. When I learned more about the reproducing grands of the past, I decided that I would like to save one of these instruments.
The owner of one of the shops (out of his home) had a 1916 Weber FR 6' Duo Art grand that he had saved from destruction several years ago. When people learn what it costs to restore the complicated original pneumatic player systems these pianos are either gutted of the player, or end up in a land fill.
This piano had sat in storage somewhere in Kansas City for decades. It was going to be disposed of, so he bought it and had it shipped here to Denver. After learning about the history of Weber pianos, and how scarce these 6' pianos were (most Weber Duo Art pianos were 5'8" instruments) I decided to undertake the cost of restoration. In 1916 the base price of a Weber FR was $3,000, which in today's currency would purchase a home.
The 6' FR models were a different scale, and as opposed to the 5'8" Weber Duo Arts, were duplex.
The restoration is being done in 3 parts. The man I am purchasing the piano from will also be doing the restoration of the Duo Art system. This is an early one from 1916, but at some point in the 1920's, the piano was sent back to Aeolian for an update. At that time the Soft-Normal-Dance level control was added and the expression system updated to a current one with the crash valve.
The piano itself need a lot of work. While the soundboard is, amazingly, in good shape, The strnigs are shot. Another shop here is doing the work on the instrument itself. They have already refinished the soundboard, re-gilded the plate, and installed a new set of strings. Unfortunately, while stored in Kansas City moths got into the piano. The bushings in the action are shot. The shop has now sent samples off to Renner, and the piano will be getting all new Renner whippens, shanks, flanges, and hammers.
The piano is veneered in African Mahogany (flame Mahogany). It is hard to tell as the old finish is so dark and crazed.
Another shop will be doing the refinishing (yes, I know that really would have been best to do while the plate was out, but there were reasons this was not possible). There is a protected back of one of the Duo Art access doors which shows how the original finish appeared:
When it is stripped and re-finished I want to go with a more red finissh as opposed to the original brown. Here are a few photos showing the current state of the piano (note the worn fallboard - someone enjoyed playing this for years):
While all this work is going on I have accumulated 400 rolls for when it is completed. The man doing the player restoration has one of the 10 Steinway 9' concert grand Duo Art's produced, so I get the pleasure of trying out each new roll on this instrument.
I will provide updates as things progress, though as you may well imagine, this is not a fast process.